Uber Is Back in London After a Protracted Legal Kerfuffle
After a long legal battle, Uber is back in business in London.
Last September, Transport for London (TfL), the local government body responsible for Greater London's transportation network, refused to renew the ride-hailing company's license to operate, on the grounds that Uber is not a "fit and proper" operator. After months of legal back-and-forth, followed by two days of hearings in the Westminster magistrates court, Chief Magistrate Emma Arbuthnot overturned the TfL ban, stating that Uber is now considered "fit and proper," and granting Uber a 15-month probationary license with a "clear set of conditions that TfL will thoroughly monitor and enforce." Arbuthnot also required Uber to pay TfL's legal costs, around $560,000.
Uber, which originally requested a five-year license from TfL, began the two-day hearings procedure by stating that many of TfL's prior concerns were accurate, saying that the company has made significant changes to the business model since September 2017 that include reporting criminal activity directly with London law enforcement instead of lodging complaints with TfL, which often resulted in delays that the department wasn't equipped to address. Another change includes the restriction that drivers can only use the Uber app in regions where they hold a private hire license, and with far stricter regulations around their hours worked. Under the new probationary license terms, Uber drivers must take a six-hour consecutive break after every 10 hours of driving.
"We will continue to work with TfL to address their concerns and earn their trust, while providing the best possible service for our customers," said Tom Elvidge, Uber's UK general manager.
Helen Chapman, TfL's licensing, regulation and charging director, said that the relationship between Uber and TfL had been "very difficult" over the past half-decade. "We have had five years of a very difficult relationship where Uber has felt they haven't required regulation and being operated in the same way as everybody else we regulate," Chapman said, citing concerns over Uber's approach to reporting crime, as well as how background checks are conducted on drivers – safety issues that have plagued the rideshare company worldwide. But Chapman allowed that Uber's changes "could, if applied correctly, enhance public safety."
Uber stated that the company is "determined to make things right." Further changes for Uber in London include clear documentation showing passengers that their drivers are TfL-licensed.
Londoners seemed to react favorably to the compromise. Culture Secretary Matt Hancock most likely spoke on behalf of the people when he tweeted: "Glad to see sense has prevailed on Uber and millions of Londoners can continue to use their great service."